What is Dyslexia?
The student who struggles with reading and spelling often puzzles teachers and parents. The student displays average ability to learn in the absence of print and receives the same classroom instruction that benefits most children; however, the student continues to struggle with some or all of the many facets of reading and spelling. This student may be a student with dyslexia.
As defined in the Texas Education Code:
(1) “‘Dyslexia’ means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.
(2) ‘Related Disorders’ includes disorders similar to or related to dyslexia, such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.”
TEC §38.003 (d)(1)(2)
The current definition from the International Dyslexia Association states:
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
(Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, November 12, 2002.)
Students identified as having dyslexia typically experience primary difficulties in phonological awareness, including phonemic awareness and manipulation, single-word reading (decoding), reading fluency, and spelling. Consequences of dyslexia may include difficulties in reading comprehension and/or written expression. These difficulties are unexpected for the student’s age and educational level and are not primarily the result of language difference factors. “From a practical perspective this means that the weakness in reading is isolated and circumscribed, reflecting a local rather than generalized cerebral dysfunction. A child who is slow in all cognitive skills would not be eligible for consideration of dyslexia; a dyslexic child has to have some cognitive strengths, not only depressed reading functions.” (Overcoming Dyslexia, Sally Shaywitz, M.D., 2003.) Additionally, there is often a family history of similar difficulties.
What is NOT dyslexia?
Dyslexia is NOT:
It is not a sign of poor intelligence.
It is not the result of laziness or of not caring.
It cannot be “cured with pills, diets, or medical treatment.”
It is not an eye (visual) problem.
It is not outgrown, although individuals with dyslexia can be taught how to learn.
It is not writing letters and words backward. “While it is true that children with dyslexia have difficulties attaching the appropriate labels or names for letters and words, there is no evidence that they actually see letters and words backward.” (Overcoming Dyslexia, Sally Shaywitz, M.D., 2003.)
The good news is that with appropriate education, understanding, and time, many individuals with dyslexia learn to read and write and to develop their special abilities and talents. Many successful scientists, artists, athletes, and world leaders are people with dyslexia.
(Basic Facts About Dyslexia: What Every Lay Person Ought to Know. The Orton Emeritus Series, The International Dyslexia Association, Baltimore, MD. 2nd Edition, 1998.)